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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ukraine: Crimean crisis, Western reactions and press conference of Vladimir Putin

Russian military troops in Ukrainian Crimea
(Image: Bloomberg)
Despite an increasing international pressure and calls of Western countries to withdraw Russian troops from Crimea immediately, Russian military remains in Crimea and the numbers of the troops are reportedly increasing on the borders with Ukraine, close to Lugansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Chernigiv regions. Several provocations of Russian soldiers occurred again during the night, but Ukrainian soldiers stand and refuse to give up arms and are ready to protect Ukraine till the end, if there will be an assault. Till now Ukrainian soldiers are demonstrating an incredible patience and self-restraint despite the provocations and assaults, and this position prevents the beginning of the armed conflict in the region, as Russian side waits for the first shot from Ukrainian side to justify its invasion.

Massive rallies supporting integrity and unity of Ukraine and demanding immediate withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukraine have been held in several Ukrainian cities on Tuesday, including the cities in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. Thus, Donetsk has gathered more than 2 thousand protesters, what is unexpected for this city.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian High Constitutional Court has declared in Tuesday its decision regarding the decisions about the regional referendum to be held in Crimea and appointment of the new Cabinet of Ministers of Crimea with the Prime Minister Mr. Aksyonov. These decisions were declared to be illegitimate, and the regional referendum in Crimea is illegitimate as well, as there is no Referendum law in Ukraine, and there is only the possibility of the national Referendum.

USA State Secretary John Kerry and Ukrainian
acting President Oleksandr Turchinov and
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kyiv
(Image: The Guardian)
USA Secretary of State John Kerry has visited Kyiv on Tuesday, meeting with the acting President Oleksandr Turchinov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to discuss the situation in Ukraine and to find the ways to resolve it. USA Administration supports Ukraine and its territorial integrity and sovereignty and supports Ukrainians on their path to democratic and better society and European values and condemns Russian invasion, calling for Russian President Putin to immediately withdraw the troops from the country and to de-escalate the conflict, or Russia risks to become politically isolated and facing economic sanctions.

In addition to that John Kerry stated that USA is ready to support Ukrainian economy financially, along with IMF and EU financial aids expected to be sent to Ukraine.
European Unit in its turn will hold an extraordinary Summit in Vienna on 6 March, in order to discuss the situation and crisis in Ukraine and to mediate in the resolving of the crisis. Thursday is also a deadline for Russia to de-escalate situation in Crimea and remove the troops, or EU will impose sanctions against Russia and its officials, according to the EU representatives.

OSCE will also send a special group of military experts to Ukraine to investigate the case and study the situation.

US John Kerry in Kyiv Maidan, commemorating the slain
protesters, during his Tuesday's visit to Kyiv
(Image: Kyiv Post)
Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin has held press conference on Ukrainian issue and Crimean crisis on Tuesday. First of all Mr. Putin assured that Yanukovich is alive and his health is good, and that he personally saw him several days ago (in the light of the recent rumors about Yanukovich’s alleged death). He also added that Victor Yanukovich has no political future, but Russia considers him being a legitimate Ukrainian President and refuses to recognize the current interim government. Putin stated that Yanukovich’s life was under the threat, that’s why Russia gave him political asylum. As for Crimea, Putin and his government somehow consider the new Cabinet of Ministers and self-proclaimed Prime Minister Aksyonov along with the decisions of Parliament about the referendum, happened with violations and without quorum, being legitimate.

Vladimir Putin has also denied Russian military presence in Crimea and claimed that these are local residents organized in the self-defense units to protect their land. At the same time he stated that there is no need of deploying additional armed forces to the Southern and Eastern Ukrainian regions, contradicting himself and actually saying that Russian military is present in Ukraine.

Putin accused Ukrainian current government of attempting the coup and stated that this authority is not legitimate, and accused also the Western countries of supporting the coup. He also said that the “new state” was formed as result of the revolution in Ukraine, and Russia didn’t sign any treaties with this “new state”, so Russia has no obligations, including the 1997 agreements and 1994 Budapest Pact. De facto, Putin refused to respect and guarantee territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. But at the same time, despite the fact, that Russia has no treaties and relationships with this “new Ukraine”, according to Putin, Ukrainian government must somehow pay Russia $ 2 billion for the Gazprom contracts.

US John Kerry and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey
(Image: Kyiv Post)
As for the protests and Euromaidan, Putin repeated again his common these that these protests have been prepared and sponsored by the Western countries, and “fighters” presented in Maidan have been trained in Poland and Lithuania, at the special bases. Poland and Lithuania Ministries of Foreign Affairs both were outraged by this statement of Putin and issued their notes.
As for the military operation and its possibility, Putin has stated that Russia doesn’t want to fight with Ukraine, but in case the situation will worsen and there will be chaos and danger for the Russians living in Ukraine and Russian-speaking citizens, the troops could be deployed. Putin also stated that he has no intentions of accession of Crimea or other Ukrainian territories, unless the people of these regions will express such a will through the referendum.

In general, Putin’s press conference was extremely strange and confusing and it highlighted again the doubts regarding Putin’s “normality”. It’s worth mentioning, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said after the phone talk with Putin several days ago, that he has totally lost connection with reality and is inadequate. Thus, the situation in Crimea remains tense, and Russian troops aren’t being withdrawn, continuing to block Ukrainian military bases and controlling all the strategic objects of the Peninsula.

Vladimir Putin, Russian President
(Image: Wikipedia)
However, under an increasing international pressure some talks and consultations between Russia and Ukraine have already started, declared Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Tuesday. These are talks on the level of the ministers and they aren’t that active at the moment, but this is already a big effort, said Mr. Yatsenyuk. Ukrainian government sated Ukraine is ready for the new type of cooperation and relationships with Russia, but only if Russia will respect Ukrainian territorial integrity, borders, sovereignty and the right to independently resolve its internal issues.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian recently released ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is expected to head to Germany for the medical treatment this weekend, has made an official statement regarding the situation in Ukraine and the Crimean crisis and declared, that Constitutional reform and signing of the Association Agreement with EU should be a priority for the new Ukrainian government. In addition to that she stated that Russian Black Sea Fleet, stationed in Ukraine, must be withdrawn due to Russian violations of the treaties, and Kharkiv agreements, signed in the time of Yanukovich and prolonging the presence of Russian fleet in Crimea till 2042, should be also denounced.